Speaker at Business convention and Presentation. Audience at the conference hall
ATD Blog

The Business of Speaking for a Living

Thursday, January 17, 2019

To see Anne Bruce and Sardék Love speak publicly—and engagingly—on the topics about which they are passionate is inspiring. To travel with them behind the scenes, as we do in the second edition of Speak for a Living, is to spend a few hours exploring and better understanding the nuts and bolts of our own work: the work of fostering positive, long-lasting transformation among those who hire us.

Co-writing the second edition of “the insider’s guide to building a speaking career,” Bruce and Love have substantially added to what was already an invaluable resource for speakers, trainers, and others committed to honing their communication skills to foster change.

The book is helpful and encouraging at a variety of levels. It never wavers from taking a practical approach to developing a career as a public speaker; the in-depth questionnaire at the beginning of the book, for example, offers new as well as tremendously experienced speakers a must-do opportunity to explore their approach to their work, their skills, and their weaknesses so they can better identify what drives them and what they need to do to become and remain competitive in a highly-challenging industry. It includes numerous short introductions to the work of others who have built—and continue to build—enviable careers in public speaking. It looks at the mechanics of developing the infrastructure that first-rate public speakers develop: websites; support from speechwriters, coaches, presentation skills trainers, and media/public relations professionals; and administrative help, such as the assistance of colleagues in speakers’ bureaus and speaker management companies.

But none of this is meant to scare off those who are in the early stages of their careers. Whether you are still at the stage of contemplating a career as a public speaker or have years of experience in the field, you’ll find encouragement and reminders in abundance throughout this book. You will also discover the benefits of taking the time to work through the questionnaires and numerous resource sheets included in the book as a way of identifying areas in which you could be doing even better and as a way of reminding yourself what initially drew you to public speaking as a profession as well as a vocation.

There is a consistently effective use of humor and no-nonsense guidance woven throughout the book; Bruce and Love begin with a firm admonition: “If you’re looking for nothing but positive praise on evaluation sheets, or if you require constant validation and adulation—get a puppy. You’re probably not cut out for this profession.”


And they do not shrink away from pointing out the numerous challenges public speakers continually face: “No matter how good a speaker you are, your best tool is sometimes to plan to be spontaneous, expect the unexpected, and not rely on anything—even technology. Life happens. Special events, worldwide conferences, conventions, and Fortune 500 retreats can be wrought with disaster, the unexpected, and unleashed attendees experiencing their first time away from home on business in a decade and letting loose. Just be ready and don’t get shaken when things happen that are not planned.”

There are continual reminders that public speaking is not just about the speaker; this is a business whose practitioners are keenly aware of and concerned about the value they bring to those who use our services. With that in mind, the authors offer five basic steps to complete to identify and best serve the audience you are seeking: “define your ideal buyer”; “identify the problems ideal buyers will gladly pay to resolve”; “complete the Problem-Solution Matrix” included in the book; “map potential solutions by choosing a duration format,” such as one-hour, half-day, full-day, or multiday sessions; and “select optimal delivery methods for each solution,” such as a keynote address, a webinar or other online program, a face-to-face or online course, or coaching or consulting.


It will be no surprise to readers that these public speakers and writers explore publishing as an important aspect of building a successful speaking career. They review the advantages and disadvantages of seeking a publisher, pursuing self-publishing as an option, or taking advantage of hybrid publishing options that are increasingly available to writers.

The concluding chapters of the book come back to the ways in which the authors themselves worked to develop their career. Those who already know Love will not be surprised by the oft-repeated advice he offers: “It’s your time. You’ve got the dream. We’ve given you the tools. Make it happen.” And their final Making It Happen tips include the reminder that this—like so many aspects of talent development—is a journey that requires continual effort and course adjustments: “Keep reading, keep learning, and keep refining your craft to build a profitable speaking and training business.”

About the Author

Paul Signorelli is a San Francisco-based writer-trainer-presenter-consultant who is active in ATD nationally, regionally, and locally. He is currently writing Change the World Using Social Media for Rowman & Littlefield (projected publication date: winter/spring 2019). He can be reached at [email protected] and blogs at Building Creative Bridges.

1 Comment
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Great article! Thank you for informing and keeping us up to date on Bruce and Love! I will be purchasing my book today! These two give me so much hope and inspiration. Which those things are good, but more than that they give me tools in which its up to me to use them and put in the work to build my speaking career! Thanks for your information as well and much success on your upcoming book.
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